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Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker and the wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, burst into tears a few minutes into her testimony Monday when asked to identify Harvey Weinstein from the witness stand at his trial.
Siebel Newsom spent 15 minutes on the stand in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom before a lunch break, becoming the fourth woman Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting to testify at the former movie magnate's trial.
Asked by a prosecutor if she saw the person in court that she met at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2005, she went silent then burst into tears before managing to mutter “yes” into the microphone.
Told to describe the 70-year-old Weinstein for the record, she looked toward the defense table where he was sitting, continued crying and said, “He’s wearing a suit, and a blue tie, and he’s staring at me.”
The 48-year-old Siebel Newsom was “a powerless actor trying to make her way in Hollywood” in 2005 when Weinstein raped her during what she thought was going to be a meeting to discuss her career at a Beverly Hills hotel, Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson said during the trial's opening statements.
Weinstein's lawyers say the two had consensual sex and that she sought to use the powerful producer to advance her career.
Siebel Newsom described their initial meeting, saying that she was an actor and producer who had played a few small roles when she went to the festival in September 2005 with a group of entertainment industry friends.
Siebel Newsom said a crowd of people in a hotel lobby area seemed to clear as he approached her: “It felt like the red sea was parting," she testified. "I don’t know if it was deference or fear.”
She said Weinstein, then at the height of his Hollywood power, was “the kingmaker” to those in the room.
“I felt a bit intimidated," she said. "He was charming. He treated me initially like he was really curious about me. Maybe flattered is how I felt?”
She and a friend later met up with him at the hotel bar.
“I felt like there was a genuine interest in talking about my work,” she said.
Siebel Newsom is known as Jane Doe #4 at the trial, and like the others Weinstein is charged with raping or sexually assaulting, her name is not being spoken in court. But both the prosecution and the defense identified have identified her as the governor's wife during the trial and Siebel Newsom’s attorney confirmed to The Associated Press and other news outlets that she is Jane Doe #4.
The AP does not typically name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they have come forward publicly.
Weinstein has had many famous accusers, including A-list actors, since he became a magnet for the #MeToo movement in 2017. But none of the women telling their stories at the Los Angeles trial have had anywhere near the prominence of Siebel Newsom, first partner to the man who last week sailed to a second term as governor of the nation's most populous state and may make a run for the White House.
“She intends to testify at his trial in order to seek some measure of justice for survivors, and as part of her life’s work to improve the lives of women," her attorney Elizabeth Fegan said in a statement at the start of the trial.
Weinstein attorney Mark Werksman told jurors during opening statements that Siebel Newsom “a very prominent citizen of California” who has made herself "a prominent victim in the #MeToo movement.”
“Otherwise,” Werksman said, “she’d be just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood.”
Actor Daphne Zuniga, star of “Spaceballs” and “Melrose Place," testified about her friend at the trial last week.
Zuniga said she and Siebel Newsom were on a hike when she told her she'd had a meeting with Harvey Weinstein. When asked how it went, Zuniga said Siebel Newsom told her “not good, I don't want to talk about.”
“I always had known her to be positive, upbeat, looks you in the eye, lovely energy," Zuniga said, but here “she seemed upset, squirmy, agitated.”
Prosecutors said that — in a pattern described by many other Weinstein accusers — Siebel Newsom had expected they would be meeting in a public space with others in attendance, but instead found herself alone with him in his suite.
Judge Lisa Lench is allowing the defense to use an email Siebel Newsom sent to Weinstein in 2007 asking him for help in dealing with the media surrounding a scandal involving her husband, who was mayor of San Francisco at the time.
Already serving a 23-year sentence for a conviction in New York, Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to four counts of rape and seven counts of sexual assault involving five women. He has denied ever engaging in non-consensual sex.
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